One Pennsylvania team will get a goalie change in their next playoff game.
The Philadelphia Flyers, trailing the New York Rangers 2-1 in their first round series, will turn to their regular starter Steve Mason in Game 4. Mason, who missed the final few games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, returned to the bench to back up Ray Emery in Game 3 and played the final 7:15 after Emery was pulled in the 4-1 loss. Overall, Emery hasn’t been bad for the Flyers in this series. The team in front of him has been
one of the worst possession lineups in the playoffs so far – better than only Los Angeles (down 3-0), Tampa Bay (swept), and Colorado (the anomalous one). Of the six goals Emery allowed in Games 1 and 2, half were on the power play. And through those first two games, Emery had a .913 save percentage. That’s not a bad performance at all – Emery even deserves most of the credit for Philadelphia’s only win in the series.
The decision to go back to Mason was made easier by the Game 3 result, when the Flyers lost despite outshooting the Rangers for the first time. None of the four Ranger goals came on the man advantage and Emery’s 5-on-5 save percentage dropped to .899. Neither of Philadelphia's goalies is likely to steal a series for them, but in a matchup as tight as this one with the Rangers, they can't be losing games either. They need to be...average. At least. Since Mason was well enough to sit on the bench in Game 3 and got a taste of the playoffs by facing three shots – all saves – in his seven-plus minutes of relief work, he's not coming in stone cold either. So, trailing in the series and playing at home, the safe move is to go with the goalie who had the better numbers all year. Emery was OK, for the most part, filling in for Mason, but he was inconsistent from one game to the next - and that will not give the Flyers their best chance of winning. Starting Mason gives them their best opportunity to come back. Mason’s regular season save percentage was 14 points better than Emery’s and his GAA was nearly half a goal better. The former Blue Jacket had his best season in years and gave the Flyers much more than they could have expected. Now that he's healthy enough to play, he deserves the playoff reward. And, hey, maybe some of that Columbus magic will rub off on Mason and the Flyers. They sure could use it.
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